|“The time has come,” the Walrus said,”To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
At my best friend’s house, sitting in his living room the other day, there because of an invitation to a gathering of his son’s friends,all there to wish his son success in his upcoming marriage. I was invited there to impart whatever wisdom (as his “uncle”) that I may have gleaned over the 28 years from my own nuptials.( Now that I think of it, he really should have invited my wife, as she may be the expert on any wisdom I may have gained if any)
Almost everyone there was of my his sons’ generation and with few exceptions, unmarried. It was so unlike the gatherings I hosted over the years for my own friends, his father included, that were supposed to be sedate in quality but somehow thru no fault of my own, turned into something else very quickly. I’m not now, or ever was one of those guys you read about in books or in the media that lived and partied in some frat house, that was a temple of hedonism. Still, I had times where I might just have become such, now that I think about it. Youth is, if you do not know, the one big drug you spend the rest of your life in withdrawal from. I now know anytime you have a bunch of testosterone primed young guys around, some china is bound to be broken, but with the “old men” in attendance, the china was safe for the moment.
I did in fact carry out my duties, giving out, some words of wisdom (quite well I must say) and not long after I finished, we cracked opened a few beers, ate pizza, and listened to a few tunes of long ago. One by one, everyone of the younger generation drifted out and left. Even his son called it a night, leaving me and my friend sitting in the living room.
It must be said that of all of my friends, and I do not have that many, this one knows me better than anyone. So when we do get together and talk it is the type of conversation that can go on and on. Forever if we let it. It’s good and right that we unburden on each other because, in reality, it seems like we have had only one, albiet broken, conversation In all the years we have known each other. It is a conversation that is well over 40 years in length, and it is about Life. We do in fact, talk of many things within that subject, We talk about our now betraying bodies, and the changes that we have made to compensate to keep our dignity intact. With lowered heads and speech we reach out for those who are no longer in our circle for whatever reason, taken away by the sudden turns of directions that befall us all, but most of all we reopen old wounds, then rebandage them, confess our failings, boast our successes, and finally, restate our excuses for being who we were, and what we have become. Once that is done, for the moment (and it is fleeting,) we are whole again.
And then we must stop to return to the lives we have spoken to, that have been waiting in the shadows, it always means that a lot of things have gone unsaid. Some conversational letter “T” uncrossed or an “I” left undotted. In this feeling, I may be alone in. Black men of my generation are renowned for being emotionally shortchanged in some manner. Many of my friend’s fathers were either tyrants or weaklings, or worse, like my father, just not there.
In some ways I do not blame them, they all were born and raised into a system that was set up to grind them into subservience. Rare was any black man so self sufficient to be able to bite the “White” hand and raise a family. Rarer, still to find the man who was aware of that fact, but still refused to deal with a second class reality, and would not turn to bite the hands of his own family in frustration.
Even for me, when I was a younger man, I felt the proverbial urge to “go out to get a newspaper”, and never return. I’m persuaded that for the black men of my generation that was the best way out, (they felt) while for the so-called better educated white man who could no longer support or bear his family, would just jump off a building and be done with it. But I digress, this not about our fathers, it is about the thing that has kept us from repeating their mistakes.. each other, our friendship, and the power of Man Talk.